Messi, Ronaldo gear up for World Cup knockout phase

Messi, Ronaldo gear up for World Cup knockout phase

Messi, Ronaldo gear up for World Cup knockout phase

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has denied that star player Lionel Messi is dictating issues such as substitutions. Indeed, Argentinian journalist Fernando Niembro has even accused the captain of taking over squad selection duties from Sampaoli.

Argentina are expected to make several changes to their team for the match at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Argentina icon Diego Maradona has been urged by Federation Internationale de Football Association to behave in a respectful manner after hitting the headlines during the group stages of the World Cup in Russia.

Messi scored the opener as Argentina progressed out of the group stages with their victory over the Super Eagles, with Marcus Rojo scoring the decisive goal after Victor Moses levelled the scoreline early in the second half.

Sampaoli was unstinting in his praise of Messi, describing him as "the best player in the world" and a "genius", but preferred to focus more on the display he expected from his whole team on Saturday.

That scenario sparked debate ahead of Thursday's England-Belgium group match - was it better to win and enter the tougher side of the draw or lose and face potentially easier fixtures down the line?

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"It is so clear, everyone can see that it was a clear handball and it is supposed to be a penalty", said Ogundeji.

Interestingly, at the Nou Camp, Messi can count on Luis Suarez; it is a different ball game with Argentina, after Gonzalo Higuain has fired blanks in eight games with the Albiceleste.

After breezing through one of the hardest groups at this World Cup, Croatia appear on course to rival the exploits of their Class of '98, who were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners France.

For Argentina, the man to watch is once again Lionel Messi. "They are among the very best contenders and we will need to be very consistent to come out on top of a very hard match". "After that, they get a lot of goals within three or four touches".

"Otherwise we suffer", the manager said.

"When Leo came and hugged me I felt very proud and happy because he knows I am passionate every single day".

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